'Anyone but Steve Bruce' – who could Newcastle United realistically turn to if Mike Ashley breaks his mould and pulls the trigger?
Anyone but Steve Bruce.
That's the call of many angry Newcastle United fans who have grown tired of the current incumbent in the top job at St James’s Park, see relegation as a threat looming large and want a new broom on Tyneside to quell those fears. And, being honest, it is hard to argue with those calls at present, especially considering United have scored just once in seven games, once from open play in eight.
The Gazette understands that Bruce is safe in his job, for now, but the club’s hierarchy are concerned by the worsening situation and its possible implications for the bigger picture at United.
Should the run of nine without a victory become 12 or 13, and the gap to the bottom three close from seven to two or three, Ashley may well be forced to act.
Should he act, however, he would not be doing so from a position of strength.
There is a strong belief progress on the takeover front could be made in the not to distant future. But at this point, it remains entangled in legal toing and froing.
Should it get the green light, and a path be cleared for the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia to walk through the front door at SJP as majority shareholders, then United will be looking in a whole different market of managerial talent. For now, though, there are no guarantees – and that uncertainty not only clouds Ashley’s judgement, but also that of any new manager he may, or may not, want to bring to the football club.
With all that in mind, here’s a look at a list of managers who populate the ‘anyone but Bruce’ replacement list. They’re available and of the ‘have note book, will travel’ variety, but could they steer United to safety if Bruce is given the boot?
Fan-popular, but player-divisive – Eddie Howe – 7/2
Celtic seemingly want him as a replacement for floundering Neil Lennon, so too do the majority of Newcastle United fans who make suggestions on social media. This may, however, not be a fair reflection of the mindset of the full fanbase.
An incredible job at Bournemouth, soured somewhat by how it ended. Remember, that was relegation from the Premier League. Player unrest was an issue in the death throes of his time on the south coast – which may raise concerns with the likes of Ryan Fraser and talisman Callum Wilson. Has failed in the one and only other job he was handed away from the Cherries, at Burnley.
Deal with the devil – Rafa Benitez – 4/1
The absolute obvious choice. He should still be here, really. But will never happen under Ashley, as they were two men fighting totally different battles while together. Put simply, as people, they were chalk and cheese. One with limited expectations the other who saw the sky as the limit at Newcastle.
Benitez is the No.1 choice of the consortium waiting in the wings to take over. Would take a massive change in tact, a shove from the side and a potential king’s ransom of a compensation payment to land the popular Spaniard, though.
Return of the disciplinarian – Nigel Pearson – 14/1
This seems to be a Bruce alternative that is gaining some traction online, but would it work?
Well, he has been on Tyneside before and has been caretaker twice, even if just for one game at a time.
When Glenn Roeder walked he stepped in, then again 12 months later at the end of Sam Allardyce’s time on Tyneside.
Many argue the Nottingham-born former defender would have kept Watford up last season, if he’d been allowed to finish what he started and is widely regarded as the early catalyst for Leicester City’s Claudio Ranieri fairytale.
Is he the firefighter United require?
Breaking the mould – Marco Silva – 16/1
The Portuguese is out of work, and has been since he left Everton in December 2019. Was sacked at Goodison after a poor spell, which flies in the face of the more than respectable job he did at Hull City and Watford previous to that.
An appointment of this ilk, despite ticking the free and available box, would break the Ashley mould to be honest, much like the Benitez one smashed it to a thousand pieces.
Much of a muchness – Mark Hughes – 4/1
The bookmakers seem to fancy this one – it’s fair to say fans are not on the same page.
A Hughes appointment, if that avenue was explored, would look be much of a muchness in comparison to Bruce – think that meme with two Spiderman characters pointing at each other.
Although, you could argue Hughes has had more of a positive impact as a manager compared to his former Manchester United teammate.
Decent with Wales, OK at Blackburn Rovers and again not bad at Manchester City. After that it’s been a bit ropey, bar spells at Fulham and Stoke City. Sacked from his last post at Southampton.
Would be house for Newcastle United in the game of lower Premier League managerial appointments after the likes of Alan Pardew and Allardyce.
The outsider in the cap – Tony Pulis – 40/1
Walked out at Sheffield Wednesday recently, and formerly of Middlesbrough. This would fit the cheap and less than cheerful Ashley appointment model.
The football under Pulis is grim. Of the realistic Ashley-like contenders, potentially registers as the least appealing.